Today is Literacy Day: let's just get rid of illiteracy

BY TANESHA MUNDLE Observer staff reporter mundlet@jamaicaobserver,com

Sunday, September 07, 2014

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AS Jamaica joins the rest of the world in observing Inter-national Literacy Day today, National Literacy Coordinator, Dr Andre Hill has warned that the country will not fully prosper as a nation until it eliminates illiteracy.

"We cannot progress as a nation if we don't emphasise the value of literacy to every individual and make a concerted effort as a society, both in the public and private sector, to educate every single child and give remedial education to young adults outside of the formal education system," Hill told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

Furthermore, he said, "when we as a nation talk about literacy it's not simply about the ability to read or write. It means being able to criticise one's society."

Dr Hill said that literacy entailed the acquisition of critical thinking skills and developing knowledge skill bases that enabled individuals to contribute to the advancement of society and their own personal development.

He reported that Jamaica was on track to attain the target of 85 per cent literacy at the grade four Level by 2015. The target is among several contained in the 2004 Task Force Report on Educational Reform. The Grade Four Literacy Test is an international benchmark used to determine literacy levels. The country's literacy level stood at 76.3 per cent last year and 72 per cent the previous year.

Dr Hill said, based on the upward trend of the results since the test was instituted, he is confident that the figure for 2014, when it is released, would be closer to the 2015 target.

"In 2000, when we had the first sitting of the test, the national literacy rate was 57 per cent. And if you look at the percentile of the results since then we have seen improvements in the students' performance of up to 20 per cent at the national level," he said.

The national literacy Coordinator attributed the country's progress in primary literacy to sustained initiatives spearheaded by the Ministry of Education. These include the National Comprehensive Literacy Programme, which was introduced in March 2007 and fully implemented in September 2010 as a direct response to one of the recommendations of the 2004 report, and the ongoing training of classroom teachers.

The United Nations International Literacy Day has been a calendar event since 1966 and seeks to raise people's awareness of and concern for literacy issues globally. The theme for this year is "Literacy and Sustainable Development".

The Ministry of Education, through the National Literacy Programme, will be coordinating several related activities across the ministry's six regions. The main event will be a national literacy symposium at the Mico University College.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in its observation of International Literacy Day, will host a International Literacy Day Reading at its office on Dominica Drive in New Kingston, which will feature readings by Poet Laureate Mervyn Morris, Professor Emeritus Eddie Baugh, Jean Goulbourne, Philip Riley, Charge d'Affaires of the South African Embassy, among others.

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